Common Core Connection:
I know that not everyone uses Houghton Mifflin for their curriculum, and, as I was thinking about a suitable suggestion to use in place of the HM stories I was using in this unit, I immediately thought of Stellaluna, a classic and rich text that my students love every year. As I thought more about it, I realized, "why can't I try it too?" So I closed my anthology, held my breath, and gave it a try. Sometimes teachers need to step away from the materials given them and look for something more challenging for their students. This is the first lesson I have truly stepped away from the confines of the district pacing guide and adopted ELA resources in order to give my students a richer and deeper reading and thinking experience with CCRA.R.1: read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it, cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text. While a bit scary, it's what my students need, and, with a story like Stellaluna, I know the experience will be challenging but rich.
In this lesson my students listened to a complex read aloud of Stellaluna; then they worked with their table partners to draw their own conclusions as to why the events happened in the story Stellaluna.
I began the lesson by reviewing An Egg is an Egg, by Nicki Weiss and noted some of the things that changed in that story. Drawing on yesterday’s lesson, I then reminded the class that Nicki Weiss did not tell the middle part of the changing process, but they knew it when they used what they knew about the item changing, or made a connection in their brain.
To do a quick review, I used the last sample in An Egg is an Egg, where it says, “This baby was a boy until he grew. And now he is a boy. But you can always be a baby. You will always be my baby.” I asked my students what they could conclude about the mom and child in the picture. After giving my students think and share time, I used the magic cup (Demonstration: Magic Cup) to choose one partner pair to share their answer their answer with the class. My students agreed, by showing me a thumb up (Demonstration: Thumb Up, Thumb Down), that the child and mom loved each other. I then asked, “How do you know? The author does not say they love each other.” After giving them think time, and using the magic cup, the class agreed they knew the child and mom loved each other because it included loving words that the mom says to the child (“... you can always be my baby … will always be my baby ...”). Also the picture showed the mom and child hugging.
Agreeing with my students, I introduced Stellaluna, by Janell Cannon and told them this story was about a baby bat that had to learn some new things about families.
Before I started to read I told my students I would read this story to them first and then they would have a activity to complete with their partner. I then read Stellaluna (Reading Stellaluna) to my students stopping on pages 3, 9, 13, 35, and 41 to show the pictures just a little longer and to re-read key sentences. Some sentences I felt needed rereading included, for example, on page 3: "An owl spied her. On silent wings the powerful bat swooped down upon the bats … But the owl struck again and again." I did this to emphasize these were important sentences and continued to read until the end.
When I finished I asked my students what conclusions they could make about Stellaluna.
I gave them a moment to think about this question and discuss their thoughts with their rug partner. When they were finished I used the magic cup to select three partner pairs to share their thoughts with the class. These three pairs of students shared Stellaluna was: brave because she did not give up, friendly because she made friends with the birds, and happy because she found her mother. The rest of the class showed me they agreed by showing a thumb up. A few students added Stellaluna was also smart because she learned to be a bird. I had to agree with all of my student’s observations and praised them for explaining their thinking using text evidence. I then asked: ‘Did the author come out and tell you those things about Stellaluna or did you have to draw a conclusion and make a connection in your brains about what you know’? My students chorused back, “Make a connection!”
With that we moved into the collaborative part of the lesson.
I had my students stand up and take a stretch then move to their desks like a bat flying. Adding movements to transitions is a fast, easy way to keep student attention and helps keep them from getting bored.
Once settled in their chairs I explained they would work with their table partners to explain what conclusions they could draw from parts of Stellaluna. I explained that each partner pair would get copy of either page 3, 9, 13, 35, or 41; they would also get a question that goes with that page. Together they were to re-read the page, use the clues the author gave plus what they know, and answer the questions. I then displayed the questions on the Promethean board and read each one to the class. When I finished reading the questions, I restated that they would get a page that matched one question and with their partner, re-read it to find the the author’s clues to answer the question with their partner. I then used the magic cup to select a student to re-state the directions to the class. When this student was finished retelling the directions, I also reminded the students they could circle and underline words to help them, like they have done in other activities.
I then passed out the pre-cut questions that were stapled to the corresponding reading passage, along with an answer sheet.
As my students began working I circled around to make sure they were all on task. Then I pulled my Beginning Reading group to work with them on one of the questions. With this group I re-read the passage from page 9 that described Stellaluna’s aversion to eating bugs, and had each child in the group share his/her thoughts why the little bat did not eat bugs. They concluded the bat only ate fruit because the mother bat was going to get fruit at the beginning and the story said bugs tasted ‘yukky.’ I had them write their conclusion on their answer sheets.
At the end of 10 minutes I had the class re-group into a whole group. To get a sample of each group’s answers, I first collected all the answer sheets from the students who had question 1, then all the question 2 answer sheets, until I had all five answer sheets in stacks by the question number. I randomly pulled one answer sheet from each question stack and had the students who completed it display it on the doc-u-cam and explain how they came up with their conclusion from their question. After each group shared I asked the class to provide feedback on the conclusion and the use of evidence. For the most part the class agreed with their classmates conclusions, and I modeled most of the constructive criticism.
When we finished this activity, I had my students move into the independent part of the lesson.
During this time my students are in their leveled reading groups where they rotate through different ELA activities. I always include journal writing as part of this rotation because it gives students another learning modality to further synthesize what they have been working on.
In today’s journal my students used their text questions and answer sheets to write what they concluded about how Stellaluna felt about living with the bird family.
The prompt I put on the Promethean board: From what we read in the story, "What do you conclude is the way Stellaluna feels about living with the bird family?"
When each student rotated with their group to my differentiated reading table, I checked their journals for understanding and completeness. This student added a personal touch to her journal, Making Connections to Her Family.
For a sticker my students told me what they needed to make sure they used when they were drawing conclusions (text evidence).